Thursday, June 30, 2016

Thoughts on eero WiFi System

Wifi in our house sucked.

I live in a townhouse which is three floors.  The top floor is the "office" which is where the Cable Modem is setup and where our router was located. We had a well reviewed Netgear. Granted, the layout of our office kinda sucks, and is a checklist of all the wrong things to have around a WiFi signal such as right next to a cordless phone, by a subwoofer sitting on top of a glass table.

If you were in the same room as the router, WiFi was pretty fast. Not blazing, but fast enough.

If you left the room, it got worse, and if you went to a different floor, such as the second floor which has the living room and kitchen and the Xbox and the iPads, it was abysmal.  I don't just mean it was slow, I mean you got almost no signal.

So we bought a different router.  Same results.

We changed the location of the router from on top of a table, to underneath it. We added tin foil to it, seriously, to see if that would help. We adjusted the settings and the "channel", switched from 2.4Ghz to 5Ghz.

Nothing helped.

Meet eero.

After reading about it, it seemed like exactly what we were looking for. We tried range extenders in our house but it didn't help.

So I picked up the 3 pack for $499.  Expensive yes, but a good router is about $200 and this is basically 3 routers which work seamlessly together to create a mesh network (pretty much how your office blankets your office with WiFi)

Setup is incredibly simple. Put your Cable Modem into bridge mode and plug the modem directly into an Eero unit.

Now a quick word on the lack of ethernet ports on the Eero. There are only two.  One of them is immediately taken by your modem leaving you one.  I solved this by picking up a simple $20 switch.

After setting up the first Eero I went into our master bedroom about 20 feet away.  The first location I tried to use couldn't see the other Eero.  So I moved it a bit closer and it connected.

I ran a simple test on and was getting 170mbps down.

Yes, 170.

We pay for 150.

But, 170 is what we were getting.

I probably didn't need to, but I then installed the third eero on the second floor.

Remember the second floor not only had terrible speeds it had no WiFi signal most of the time.

We're getting between 40-80mbps on the second floor now.

After a few hours, we did see some significant slow downs and connection issues.  Within around 24 hours, I received an email stating all my eeros were updated to version 1.10 of the firmware. (most of the negative reviews you'll see are related to the 1.0 version of the software which by all accounts was more beta than ready for primetime) but it seems they have fixed many of the complains you might find on Amazon reviews.

I was also told by eero support that it takes a few days for the mesh network to settle in and optimize. Personally I think that's bullshit, but I'm no network engineer.

After a few weeks, we still have incredibly fast internet speeds and the house is blanketed in WiFi.  It also gave me the confidence to now add things like the Nest Smart Thermostat since our WiFi issues are at hing of the past.

Could we have solved the problem with some network settings within our netgear routers? Maybe? But I shouldn't have to.  The things should just work, and Eero just works. I'm not a huge fan of only being able to update the network settings from the Eero app, or the fact that the system only works if it can connect to the Eero cloud platform ( if Eero goes out of business, than these things will be useless)

But, for now, this is an incredible product that completely solved our problem and I'd highly recommend it if you have any issues with WiFi in your house.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Compatibility is live on Kickstarter. Wait? Another Kickstarter??

Asking people for money is never easy. It doesn't get any easier the second time, and a third? Downright terrifying.

When my short film (the second time I asked for money) "The Evolution of a Gen-X Music Purchaser" reached its crowdfunding goal in April of 2014, I figured that'd be the last time I'd ever crowdfund.

I'd make a really cool film, get into a major festival, network, meet people, and my next project would get financed with grants or investors.

I was right on most of that.

It got into Tribeca.

I met a lot of people.

I met a lot of people interested in working with me on my next project.

The investors and grants didn't happen though.

I'm still just a guy who made a short film.  Granted, it did incredibly well, almost better than I could've ever imagined, but again, sitll just a guy with a screenplay I want to direct with no money or name-talent attached.

I've met with investors. They like the script. I think they like me. But alas, it's a hard script to "sell". It's a romantic com/drama about technology.  It's about a Facebook engineer who creates an algorithm that accurately predicts romantic compatibility among Facebook users. It was a 2015 Academy Nicholl Fellowship Quarterfinalist.  That's a big deal. That's the most prestigious screenwriting contest in the world. That means I placed in the top 300 out of close to 8000 scripts.

And while I think it's a film a lot of people would want to see, it's not a thriller or a horror movie which re much easier to sell and produce since they don't require name talent to get off the ground. The genre alone is the star.

One thing investors did mention was the idea of creating a proof of concept, or a sizzle reel, or a short film to "show" them what the movie would look like. I actually floated this idea around years ago for a thriller I wrote called Dead Peasants (formerly 4 of a Kind - the first time I asked for money)

And that's where we are today.

This is my third time crowdfunding on Kickstarter.  I failed the first time, succeeded the second time.

So why the hell am I making another short?

The purpose of the short is to not only show investors what the movie looks like, feels like and sounds like but to also get into another major film festival and attract investment. And frankly, it's also to prove that I can direct actors and tell the story.

This approach has worked before and is exactly how Whiplash got made. (I don't think they crowdfunded that though)

I have no idea how this will end.

It could be met with an utter "meh" or people could rally around it and be part of something bigger, right at the ground floor. I think it'd be cool to have been a supporter of Whiplash in its infancy considering how utterly fucking amazing that feature turned out.

I'll find out in about 18 days. Why such a short time? Well...

 As they used to say in The Wire, you only do two days in prison: the day you go in and the day you get out.  In crowdfunding, the two days which really matter are the day you launch and the day you finish.

It sorta either happens or it doesn't.

I'm hoping it does and I hope you come along for the ride.

Wish me luck.

Monday, August 3, 2015

What happens when your short film premieres at a major film festival like Tribeca?

When my short film, The Evolution of a Gen-X Music Purchaser, was invited to premiere at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival I had the same reaction anyone else would: Utter joy and jubilation.

I also had absolutely no fucking idea what a film festival was like. I'd never been to one. Hell, this was the first movie I ever made so I had no idea what to expect.

My film had been rejected by every film festival I applied to until Tribeca selected it. I applied almost exclusively to the majors but I did add in some well known regional festivals which are Oscar Qualifying.  See, a short film is not going to make you any money. It's about showing your talent, or winning awards or finding other filmmakers with better connections than you have (networking).  Playing at a lower tier festival is nice but it likely won't further your career like playing at... Tribeca or another festival where winning an award allows you to submit to the Oscars. Seriously, the fucking Oscars.

So what happens exactly?

Well, they'll call you to invite you first. And they'll call you MONTHS before the actual notification date they list on their website. (some may e-mail but Tribeca called me)  Tribeca's notification date was March 6th and they finalized their program in January. They called me up, told me what program I was invited to and gave me a week to accept or they'd have to go with something else. Obviously, this is where you accept their invitation.

They do not help with travel costs. They might with a feature but I didn't make a feature so I don't know. Short films also do not get SWAG.  I got several comped tickets to other screenings, comped tickets to my own screening, a hat, a nice messenger bag and prestige but you're not getting an Apple Watch or something with a short film.

You do get access to the filmmakers lounge which has all the alcohol you can drink. You also get invited to events like the SAG sponsored party at Lucky Strike or the Director's brunch with Rober DeNiro.  Yes, you eat in the same room as Bobby D, and you are invited to be there.

You do get a red carpet. You do get interviewed and people do take notice.

It really is a big deal and you are treated like a big deal. Even though you made a short film and the vast majority of people don't give a shit - the festival cares and they make sure the press on hand for your premiere care too.

Random people will ask to take a picture with you.  Random people will approach you and discuss your film with you. People will ask you what you are working on next and it's good to have an answer. 

This is where you actually feel like a filmmaker. People paid to come to a theater and watch something you made.  That's surreal and it's a dream come true for any filmmaker.

You will also get e-mails from a lot of other film festivals who want to screen your film, for free.  I had one festival, who had rejected me, reach out and invite me to submit my film to them for next years festival. I reminded them that they had already rejected my film and they let me know that a programmer likely never saw my movie and that for whatever reason the selection committee passed on it. And again, it's a film. It's subjective as hell. Some people out there don't like Pulp Fiction. Weirdoes. 

Remember when you first started looking for a job out of college and they all required experience and you wondered how the hell do I get experience until someone gives you a job to gain experience?

Getting into a major festival is that experience and you're suddenly stamped with credibility. Even if they still think your movie sucks, they can always say "it premiered at Tribeca" and someone might assume it's good then.

And then after the festival you go home, to normal life, to a normal job and all you can think about is getting back there.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Compatibility : 2015 Nicholl Fellowship Quarterfinalist

I think I've quit writing about 100 times. I've never wanted to write novels, I've only ever been interested in writing screenplays. The syntax seemed to work with left-leaning, software engineering, brain.  John August has mentioned this on Script Notes, that screenwriting lends itself more to "tech" people.

In 2004 my third screenplay Four of a Kind advanced to the Top 100 (semi-finals) of the third season of Project Greenlight. When I heard that news, I don't think I'd ever been more excited in my life. I figured after 18 months of screenwriting, all the hard work had paid off.  Even if the film didn't win and go into production, I could tell everyone I was a Top 100 semi-finalists and doors would open.

The doors never opened.

What I often heard was, no one gives a shit about any contests other than the Nicholl.

Well, today, after 12 years of screenwriting, I'm a Quarter Finalists in the 2015 Nicholl Fellowship with my screenplay "Compatibility" previously titled "The Love Algorithm".

Here's the logline if you're curious and of course reach out if you'd like to read it.
To impress a young journalist, a Facebook programmer leaks an app which accurately predicts two people's chances of falling in love. Its sudden release to every user's profile leads to unintended consequences.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I am Jack's second Kickstarter

I launched my second Kickstarter on Monday March 17th, 2014 for a blog post I wrote four years ago called The Evolution of a Gen-X Music Purchaser. I hope you think it's cool.

Friday, February 21, 2014

My next project is a short film called The Evolution of a Gen-X Music Purchaser

It’s a project I’ve been thinking about for close to a year now. It’s based upon this blog post I wrote in 2010. It tells the story of one man’s travels from the 90s til now with milestones in his life tied to way he’s able to consume music.
It’s a short film I hope to crowd fund. I’ll be launching that Kickstarter campaign in the next month or so. Right now I’m still figuring out how much we need to raise. Currently I'm hoping to license music from groups such as A Tribe Called Quest, Suicidal Tendencies, Slayer, Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine.
While it's a short film, it could almost be described as a long form music video.
I hope we pull it off.
While I didn’t hit my funding goal last time, I’m confident that this time I'll have something at the end of the campaign to show to everyone.
You can read more about it at www.genxmp.comSubscribe to the the mailing list and like us on Facebook.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"Lone Survivor" movie deviates pretty significantly from the book

"The book is better." - Some Asshole

You know that guy? The guy who always tells you to read the book, or the book was better. You know the people last May who were tweeting arrogantly about how they weren't surprised about the Game of Thrones Red Wedding since they had read the books and knew it was coming. As if reading something ahead of time was some sort of mighty feat. You know that guy? I hate that fucking guy. Don't be that guy.

Me? I'm about to be that guy and hopefully in the next few grafs I'll have explained myself well enough for you to understand why.

Lone Survivor is a movie written and directed by Peter Berg starring Mark Wahlberg which tells the tale of the failed Operation Red Wings where a four man SEAL recon team whose op was compromised and which ultimately lead to three of the SEALs being killed in combat and several others being shot out of the sky when the rescure helicopter was hit with an RPG.

The movie portrays the fire fight incredibly well. It's some of the most intense visuals I've seen since Black Hawk Down and since Saving Private Ryan. Black Hawk Down suffered a bit since there's just so many characters that you never really grew attached.  Saving Private Ryan's final battle scene got it right. You were with these guys for 2+ hours and suddenly they start dropping like flies. Who didn't quietly mourn when Jackson (the sniper) was blown out of his snipers nest or when Melish had his own knife slowly rip into his heart. You felt something.

I felt every bullet that Danny Dietz took in the Lone Survivor movie. I felt it when they were falling back. Literally falling back, tumbling down a mountain as they, to put it lightly, were getting their asses handed to them. I felt it when Matt Axelson took a bullet to the eye and when in his final moments kept firing his pistol until there were no more bullets. I felt it when Mike Murphy knew that he made the moral and correct position even though he was almost certainly signing his team's death warrants.

The fire fight starts around 50 minutes into the movie and lasts for almost 40 minutes. Normally non-stop action gets boring (see The Matrix Revolutions) but here it's so well done that the 40 minutes just flies by. At the 90 minute mark of the movie is when the most interesting part of the Lone Survivor story starts. At least for me.

Afghan villagers find Marcus and offer him sanctuary. Pashtunwali is an afghan custom where if they offer you assistance they are honor bound to protect you. No matter what. So they bring Marcus in and protect him.

Here is where the movie just completely fails the story.

The fire fight ends at the 1 hour 30 minute mark.  Marcus gets rescued 1 hour and 49 minutes into the movie and the movie quickly ends.


Nineteen minutes to cover Marcus crawling several miles on a broken leg until he was found by the Afghan villages? Nineteen minutes to cover them treating Marcus' wounds? Nineteen minute to cover the decrepit can of soda Marcus drank from which gave him severe stomach problems? Nineteen minutes to cover how they gave him heroine to treat his pain? Nineteen minutes to cover how Marcus could see the Taliban out his window, knowing they were out there but the villagers kept to their promise?

It's nineteen minutes because none of that is covered.

In the movie you get Mark Wahlberg asking for a knife, cutting out a bullet in his leg, treating himself. Drinking clear water and eating some food while the villagers send someone off to hand the American's a map from Marcus. Then the Taliban storm the village as the Army roars in to save the day and find Marcus laying in a hut.

It's been years since I read the book but from what I recall Marcus and a Villager leave the hut and are running away when either Rangers or Green Beret's come out of nowhere and rescue him.

Also, the other tragic part of this story were the SEALs and Army Night Stalkers who perished in the rescue helicopter when it was shot down. In the book, Marcus has already been knocked out by an RPG blast and Axelson is presumed dead but in the movie both Axelson and Marcus see the helicopter and see it blown up. That's fine. Creative license here is fine. But this incident happens so fast it's almost glossed over.

After Mike Murphy makes the call on his sat phone back to base, which ultimately lead to his death as he had to find an open area to make the call, the chinooks almost immediately take off. We then learn that a few blackhawks have to be grounded because the Apache helicopters aren't available to pepper the area since it was a hot A.O.  What that means is that you typically have an Apache attack helicopter light up an area prior to inserting troops if you know the area has hostiles. Since the chinooks kept going with the rescue team they didn't have the Apaches available to provide air cover and we know how this ends. And again the movie just gets this wrong. Maybe it's the editing? Maybe it's something else but this was a major part of the story and it just kinda was glossed over.

I know Peter Berg had a very difficult time financing this film. No one wanted to make it and I can understand why. No one wants to go to the movies and see American's get killed. We don't want to see our best soldiers get beaten. No one wants to see the truly dark side of a war, hell no one wants to be reminded that we're still in a war. It was only after the SEALs became something of a hot property because of the Bin Laden raid and Act of Valor that this movie finally got the go ahead.

Did they just not have enough money to tell a longer story? Did the part of Marcus at the village which took place over a few days get cut out of the movie for time? Why did they change the ending to include the cavalry storming the village and finding Marcus instead of the other way? Maybe I'm remembering the story incorrectly since it's been so many years.

Also, war films need to find a better way of humanizing the characters other than showing us that they have wives back home and that they love them. We get it. But there has to be something else because I just roll my eyes when you see it. Not because it isn't true and not because I'm sure it's what real soldiers talk about but because it's such a cliche. In the book I recall reading that one of the four SEALs was doing the New York Times crossword puzzle while on the helicopter. This tells me so much about the character and it was never brought up in the movie. Anyway that's just a minor critique about character development in general.

So, in summary, go see the movie for the firefight alone. It's some of the most heart wrenching and intense forty minutes of film you'l ever see and fight back the tears at the end when you see the real heroes of Operation Red Wings and see the true cost of war.